About me

I've been writing stories for years. I think I'm a good writer and I'm willing to bet you'll feel the same way. So here they are. Enjoy them, comment on them, tell your friends about'em, reblog them, retweet them, reread them. I have four stories in my archive so far:
"One day on the Mountain", a story of Lycanthropy, a father, and a son.
"The Boy", a story of a very ambitious and sociopathic fifth grade boy.
"The Easy Girl, A story of infidelity and unpaid sexual debts. This story is very dark.
"Brick The Mighty", a story of an aging superhero.
Although this is primarily a blog of horror, I also write about things that are important to me. I have more stories tucked away; they just need editing. There's even a few novels. There will be more to come.
PS. Feel free to leave a comment. I love comments.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

'Return to Bloodfart Lake': I'm drunk so don't judge me, godammit

   Don't even talk to me about this. It's New Year's Eve, my wife is at work, and since it's 2012 in two and a half hours, the world just might end, if the ancient Mayans have anything to say about it, not to mention the makers of a shitty apocalyptic John Cusack movie (which had its effects done by a firm based in Victoria, BC!)

   Did I mention the kids are in bed, I'm alone, and I'm full of beer and prosecco? I shouldn't mention that. One should not drink and drive, nor should one drink and blog. But here I am, and I want to shout to the world that there is a movie coming out called Return To Bloodfart Lake. Not only that, the lead actress in this wonderful movie has big hooters and looks good in a red bikini.

  Is this a scam? No idea. I've never seen the first movie, or this movie, which is its sequel. Horror movies and horror novels are full of boners, bloopers, and crapheaps that we're supposed to hail as brilliant even though most of them are an Elephant-in-the-Room awkward tour-de-force of bad writing and rape, but I've never heard of the Bloodfart Lake franchise. Is Bloodfart Lake near Camp Crystal Lake? I don't know. All I know is that it's the second installment, and the third instalment might be called Bloodfart Lake III: The Sharting. 

    But the Bloodfart Lake saga is just the tip of the iceberg. There's  'The Gay Bed and Breakfast of Terror', which I haven't seen but you are welcome to try out. Even worse than that is the cinematic opus known as 'Gayniggers from Outer Space'. These are real movies, sort of. I guess they're movies, in that they were shot with cameras and real actors were hired and maybe paid with food or perhaps oxycontin.

   It's happened. It used to be that taking pictures cost money - you had to really think about what you wanted to capture on film. That shit had to go to a developer, and he held your pics hostage until you paid him money. If you had a bad hair day, or if the boyfriend you included in your family photo turned out to be an philandering meth addict, you sucked it up and pasted those pictured in your album, because otherwise there was no picture. No memory. No nothing. Photos were made from the hooves of living creatures, and you had to think of that every time you pressed 'click' on your camera.

   Then digital cameras arrived, and photo labs dropped out of existence. That was pretty cool, actually. You could take a picture and have it printed at Futureshop or Costco, or just with your printer.

   But now you can make a movie on your phone. The next generation of smartphones will carry 8mp cameras (a lot of the droids already have 8mp but Apple had to wait for the 4s to get on the 8mp bandwagon), and these days everyone can make a movie. This is both good and bad. Good in that someone in Nigeria can make a cinematic masterpiece without whoring him/herself out; bad in that my kids might be making homemade porn while I'm reading the newspaper in the next room. Bad in that someone might make Return to Bloodfart Lake. 

Edit: It turns our that Terror at Bloodfart Lake is available on youtube. You can see it here. I skimmed through it - it looks like a few goth boys and girls made it while they were drunk and high. I doubt anyone got paid. They just ran Dad's camcorder and called it a movie. Not only that: I looked at the poster that I posted at the beginning of this article. It's clearly a picture of some girl's head shopped onto the body of an innocent bikini model.

Friday, 30 December 2011

'The Adventures of Tintin'

Well, it had to happen. We had to go see The Adventured of Tintin.

It’s in 3-D. I don’t know about you, but 3-D in the theatres is terrible. The new 3-D flatscreens are miles better. To top it off, the theatre was full of people trying to fill the emotional void left by boxing day, so the theatre was crowded and we were late to begin with. We had trouble finding seats. When we finally did get settled in, we were three rows from the front, so I’m now worried that I’ve given myself and my kids brain cancer. Then, to top everything off, about a quarter of the way through the movie, a teenage girl barfed all over her seat. She and her father left, but a moment later we were engulfed by the odour of vomit. So we had to move and find new seats. Somewhere amidst all this, I saw the movie and I will do my damn best to tell you what it’s like.

It’s live action/animated, using a technique called motion capture, but you already knew that. It’s directed by Stephen Spielberg; Jamie Bell, the kid from Billy Elliot, plays Tintin, and Andy Serkis (Gollum, Caesar from Rise of the Planet of the Apes) plays Captain Haddock; Daniel Craig plays the bad guy who was unfairly engendered from a completely harmless character from the comics. But you already knew everything I’ve just told you. Is it a good movie? Does Spielberg et al do a reasonably good job tackling the mighty mythology that is Tintin?

Yes. Mostly. There are hiccups and misteps throughout, and there are a few too many horrendously intricate and incomprehensible action scenes, but on the whole the vehicle drives. 

The racism, animal cruelty, and colonial patronizing of the original comics are largely gone, but that had to be done. The Thompsons are still there, and still inexplicable as ever (twins? Lovers? Colleagues? Members of a local make-work collective for the mentally handicapped? It’s never been explained). Captain Haddock is as gloriously dangerous and drunk as he has ever been.

The movie is a amalgam of The Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham’s Treasure, and The Crab with the Golden Claws, with an entirely new villain thrown in. The action has been upped, so that Tintin and the Captain have to discuss the complex plot (for the audience’s sake) while fighting bad guys and running for their lives. 

But here it is in a nutshell: Tintin discovers a model ship called The Unicorn, which hides a secret, or part of a secret, that leads to buried treasure. He teams up with Captain Haddock, whose ancestor hid the treasure under the sea, and together they traverse the globe in a race with the bad guys to find the last  piece of the puzzle. 

As I mentioned before, the actions scenes are overdone, but there is one massive and exciting exception.

In The Secret of the Unicorn, Captain Haddock recounts to Tintin his ancestor’s unsuccessful fight to repel pirates from the Unicorn, and his eventual revenge on those pirates, and their leader, Red Rackham. It’s the single most exciting story in the entire Tintin oeuvre. How exciting is it? Well, Captain Haddock has to get horrendously drunk and destroy his apartment to do the story justice. 

The best scene in the movie is when Red Rackham’s crew descends upon the Unicorn and a massive pitched battle breaks out. It’s three-dimensional in both imagery and concept as the brigands come at Sir Francis Haddock from all corners, as the pirate ship itself gets tangled in the Unicorn’s mast and swings back and forth like Calculus’s pendulum and everything, including Red Rackham’s cape, dances with flame. This battle sequence alone is worth the price of admission. 

The movie ends with the possibility of a sequel, with Peter Jackson at the helm. 

Steven Spielberg was a great admirer of Hergé, and Hergé was a great admirer of his. Both men are/were exponents of adventure storytelling and fantasy, and both men will be remembered and admired for generations. Hergé’s simple, shadowless drawings seem to become richer and more complex as time marches on, and Spielberg’s older works (ET, Duel, Jaws) shine more readily than anything done by James Cameron, because they were done with the same ephemeral and linear magic he shares with Hergé. 

Now I’m going to wait, very patiently, for Spielberg and Jackson to tackle Asterix. 

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Prometheus - Oh yes. Very much oh yes.


Click to Embiggen. Really, you should see this bigger.

  Let's see. There's the original Alien (Ridley Scott), Alien 2 (James Cameron), and the very elegiac Alien 3, directed my David Fincher. Alien Resurrection followed (Jean-Pierre Jeanet), but they had to clone Ripley in order to continue the mythology.

  Then Alien vs. Predator came along, with not Ripley connection whatsoever, and then Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, again with no Ripley, who is essentially the glue that holds the mythology together. These movies don't count - why? Because Prometheus, that's why. Ridley friggen Scott has come along to make Prometheus, which is an extreme prequel to the whole mess. 

This movie looks so damn beautiful and honest I just want to curl up and revert to my childhood. Apparently it's gory and claustrophobic, but whatever. The youngsters on the internet aren't bothered by gore, trust me; they watch the real thing while they eat their noodles and keep porn on another tab. 

   I'm not the sort of guy who has contacts in the film biz (not even here in Vancouver), but I can look at the title, the hints the director is dropping, and the general feel of the trailer, to give you an inkling of what this movie might be about. 

  Prometheus was a greek Titan, and there are many myths about him. He tricked Zeus, and stole fire from Him to give to humanity. He is also credited for creating the human race out of clay (and misapplying the genitals and giving cause to homosexuality, according to one Roman comedy writer), and in some instances he gave empirical knowledge to humanity as well. In some ways, he is similar to the biblical snake in the Garden of Eden, because he gave self-awareness, in other way Zeus is a tyrant and Prometheus saved us all by giving us life and sentience. Either way, Prometheus was a brash, tricky figure who liked to mess with great powers. 

  So how does with figure into Ridley Scott's Prometheus? Well, we're probably Prometheus, and the Aliens are the deadly knowledge we attempt to steal. Or, we're the knowledge, the infection, and somehow we were set free to wreak havoc, and the Aliens are the Eagle who as punishment eats out Prometheus's liver. 

 The myth of Pandora's Box in in the Promethean myth as well. She came from Zeus in retaliation for the theft of fire, and her opened box released disease and death. But that's too simple. 

  I hope there's more. I hope it isn't the Aliens-are-the-great-secret-that-we-try-to-exploit-for-profit-and-we-will-pay-for-our-folly-by-being-eviscerated-and-turned-into-egg-incubators schtick that has been so prevalent in all the other movies. I hope there's some great origin story a la Battlestar Galactica that Ridley Scott thinks up. 

  I think there might be. In the brief glimpses in the trailer that I can see, I can see ancient and impossible structures on the planet the protagonists are exploring. I can see origin and intelligence there, and maybe something that hints at our own origins as well. But the structures in the trailer, the alien design so famously conceptualized by HR Geiger, look so very Lovecraftian. 

We call it Lovecraftian, because Lovecraft himself was the first writer to dedicate his life to the prospect of impossibly ancient things that dwell in the far cosmos and spell our doom. But if you read Jules Verne, HG Wells, or basic greek mythology, you can see the places where Lovecraft went before he began to write.

We're afraid of the unknown, that there just might be God out there, or perhaps even more than one god. We're afraid of horrors that we might discover, and our greatest fear is that we cannot help but continue to look for them. Horror is what killed the curious cat. 

Friday, 16 December 2011

Living with A Stoner

During my third year of university, I had to find a roommate. I couldn’t afford a place of my own. So I did what most people do: I looked at the walls of the Student Union Building (which, at McGill University, was called the William Shatner Centre, and no I am not making this up) where there were housing ads taped alongside the fliers for protests marches and student social clubs.

I was embryonically stupid then. I wouldn’t say I was a genius now, but I’m surprised that back then I didn’t need an artificial lung to take over when I forgot to breath. I met a fellow I’ll call Murray, and despite the filth of his apartment (where we would live), I agreed to live with him. 

I arrived to begin school in September and the horror started. 

I might have been stupid, but he was barely human. He went through terrible marijuana binges where he would shut himself into an the airtight front room (the door would be closed and the door to the balcony was sealed off with insulating plastic), smoke himself into a stupor, and watch TV all night. In the morning before I went to school, I would sometimes look through the window on the door to the front room to see what lay beyond: Murray sprawled on the floor in an insensate heap amidst his twisted sleeping bag, his rear end more often then not poking out from his partly pulled-down shorts. Grapefruit halves with dead cigarettes stubbed out inside them  and upside down pizza boxes littered the floor around him. It was almost exactly akin to the scene in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre when a young women enters a murderer’s house and sees a living room so terribly, insanely messy that it seems to ooze evil and menace. 

I often got ready for class as quietly as possible so I didn’t wake him up. If he did wake up, he would emerge from the fetid depths of the front room, the sleeping bag wrapped around his upper body but his bare legs and sagging underwear exposed, to shuffle into the bathroom and pee, farting like an old man. Then he would shuffle back to go asleep. I never understood why he slept in the front room like he was a stoned and hibernating bear; his own bedroom was four feet away.

When I got ready for class, I often put the phone off the hook. Otherwise his mother would call, wake him up, and I would have to look at him. His mother was rightly worried about him : Murray’s little brother was in his first year of Engineering; his older sister was doing her MBA at Yale. She was worried about her disappointing middle child. So she called every morning if I let her. When Murray would answer the phone, the conversation went like this (I heard this almost every morning so it’s burned into my head. You have to imagine his Montreal urban anglophone accent, which sounds a little like a New York accent. You also have to imagine that she owned the building and he was sort of this half-assed disaster landlord who did absolutely nothing, for himself or anyone.)

“Hi mom. Yeah, I was up. No, I’m going to head out and look for a job. Yeah. I have to go. I have to go. Good-bye. Good-bye. Good-bye. I have to… Good-bye. Okay, I’m hanging up the phone. Good-bye. Good-bye.” This went on for many minutes, and sometimes happened several times in a morning. Sometimes, on snowy days, she’d arrange for him to clear the walk in front of his uncle’s Jewish tombstone store. That was all he ever did when I lived with him. He was a perversely fascinating creature, and like Gollum, he didn’t know how hideous he had become. 

But somehow, somehow, through those twists of fate that happen to stoners and the unfortunate idiots who live with them, our female roommate left (understandably - she probably would have killed him if she hadn’t left), and Murray rented a room to someone even worse that he was. 

Joey was in his early thirties and psychotic. By psychotic, I mean he talked and screamed to himself, and kept a long line of pill bottles on the mantle of his room. Thank God he was smaller than me, or else I would have been terrified of him. Murray hated him, and for a while we sort of bonded over our fear and loathing of this chaotic and doomed man.

Then the inevitable violence happened. 

Joey liked to smoke when he wasn’t coasting on his many suppressants. The deal he had struck with Murray was that he would smoke with his door closed, since I hated the smell. But Joey began to smoke with the door open, and the cigarette smoke reached me. It was the end of the year, it was getting hot in that Montreal way, and the apartment was on the third floor. 

One day I charged into the living room, hot, angry, and infuriated that the smell of cigarettes had come into my room. I yelled that he had to close his door. He came out. 

“I need the fresh air, fuck!” he yelled (the use of the word ‘fuck’ is at the end of a sentence is a Montreal thing, and it comes from Quebec french)

I charged and he met me in the middle of the living room. For a few seconds I had him in a headlock, him grunting in rage, and then I was saying: “Joey. Stop. We have to stop. Jesus Christ, we have to stop.” I let him go. 

After he rose, I held out my hand, he held out his, and we shook. He went back into his room. I looked at my arm, where there was a gash that had somehow opened during that encounter. When Joey came out to the kitchen to fix himself a snack and smiling as if nothing had happened, he had a flap of skin two inches long hanging from his arm. 

Beyond my initial and heat-driven rage at Joey, I wasn’t angry had him. He was ill and couldn’t be anything else. I was angry at Murray for renting a room to this man. 

I moved two days later, Murray screaming at me as I carried my stuff to a rented van. He said I owed him money, and I insisted that he’d made my life hell and that I owed him nothing. I probably should have payed him something, but hate is a powerful motivator when you realize you can effect revenge through money. I wanted his parents to be angry at their 26 year-old son who couldn’t run their investments and rented to psychotic welfare cases. But more than anything I just wanted to be finished, to not contribute a single cent more of my worth to sustaining what I realized was a rotating door system of college kids and crazy people who lived with this useless man-child.

This happened a long time ago, but I still think of it from time to time, and wonder if Murray (who would now be in his mid-forties) is still offering himself as a roommate to bewildered college kids, or if the great wave of money and gentrification that swept through downtown Montreal swept him up as well, along with his parents’ apartment buildings and the tombstone store up the street. I almost hope not. He added some clownish colour to that great city and I learned a lot when I lived with him. 

Thursday, 15 December 2011

I won't buy Limited Editions

I’m never going to buy a limited edition. There, I said it.

I prefer just plain old bookstore books, or second-hand books. Some of my best books have been second-hand. I’ve bought A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ulysses, all my Doris Lessing books, Blood Meridian, and TED Klein’s Dark Gods and The Ceremonies - all at the second hand store. I spent less than thirty bucks for all those books and I treasure them.

I should give you a little background here - for nearly a decade I was taking care of two children. When my first son was six months I was with him full-time, and when the second was three months old I was full time with him as well. I was up to my elbows in clothe diapers and baby shit, and I didn’t have much time for anything. I’d been a devoted reader of horror fiction but I’d fallen away from it. I no longer went to horror movies and I didn’t read very much at all. When the oldest started going to school, I slowly began to emerge from my self-imposed cultural exile and dared to read again. Since publishing in general has become so web-centred, I got on the internet and looked for horror. Every horror writer on earth has a website; there are discussion boards everywhere. There are a whole lot of horror authors I never would have known existed if I hadn’t ventured out and looked at the online world of dark fiction. 

I learned a lot about limited editions - beautiful, signed, numbered and lettered (whatever that means), new or re-released, and on sale for fifty or eighty bucks a pop with the near certainty it will sell for mega-cheddah on the secondary markets. Every few days a little notice will pop up : Hey kids, there are only ten copies left of Satan’s Zombie Ate My Gramma so you’d better set eighty bucks aside! 

I can’t bring myself to ever buy a limited edition. I can’t understand why anyone else would want to buy one either. 

Whenever I’m out in public I see people reading books. Like anyone, I read the covers. I’ve only ever seen two horror authors read by the general public - King and Koontz. No one else, save for the one time I saw a young woman with World War Z. King and Koontz are the biggest names in the biz, and take up entire shelves. Incidentally, the other two space-takers in the shelves of bookstores (at least in Canada) are women: Kelly Armstrong and Laurell K. Hamilton. All four sell a tonne of books, and their books are easy to find.

I understand that the industry is suffering, that it’s hard to get on those shelves in the first place, and hence the mail-order, small-press route many authors are taking. But… why not ebooks? Why not cheap physical books that are made cheaply and ship fast? Why the necessity to guarantee that your reader’s have received a book that no one else will be able to read? I think books should be made available for anyone who wants to buy them, but that’s just me. I like to think there’s a place for the reader that no one talks about - the guy who wants a quick and easy horror book for the weekend. When done, it will be either given away or lost under that bed amid the dust-bunnies and old plates. 

I can see the logic: if a books comes out in limited numbers, and there is no way to read it in any other form save by that limited, numbered edition bound in pixie-hide, then your primitive brain tells you that it must be something special. Yet whenever I’ve read a borrowed copy, or read the previous incarnation of a book that has become a collector’s-item re-release of a classic horror novel, I’ve been unimpressed. I get the feeling that if you dusted the mystery off this book that has rarified itself to near archeological status, it wouldn’t stand a chance next to King or Koontz. 

So what are we buying when we buy a book that is designed to become a collectible, much like those plates or coins you see on the infomercials? I have no idea. I’d rather just read a good book. 

Saturday, 10 December 2011

'Shame' - Can we talk about our global porn addiction?

I can’t wait to see Shame. I’ve heard opposing reviews - it’s slow, arty, it’s about subject that we’ve become far too prudish about; it’s brilliant, brave, about a subject we’ve become too unhealthily obsessed about. 

It’s about sex addiction, and thank God someone has made a movie about it. I’ve seen movies about alcoholism, drug addiction, and even gambling addiction, but never legitimate sex addiction. It’s high time someone’s tackled it, brought it out into the open. I’d love for people to see this movie and maybe ask if they see parts of themselves staring back. 

I’ve heard a lot of talk about addiction - how to solve it, what causes it. What I keep hearing is this - you become more addicted when the supply is readily accessible and cheap.

Let’s talk about porn. When I was a teenager, my friends and I had to walk across town and find the one East Indian corner store that rented VHS porn. You had to pay real money to see porn. You brought it home; it was a big, square piece of hollow black plastic, and we had to keep it safe. You had to hide it someplace away from your parents. When you and your friends nervously watched the stuff, you had to keep your hand on the remote in case your mother wandered downstairs in her nightgown to see just what the hell you all were doing. And then, when you were done and it was the next day, you had to bring that tape back to the store. You had to rent, carry, hide, and then return pornography by a certain date. Porn was like a library book. Think on that for a moment. 

I can’t quite explain the pre-internet, corporeal nature of porn. You had to rent the stuff, or search around in your dad’s closet where he kept it in an old suitcase. Your dad’s porn was the strangest porn: glossy European magazines where skinny men with moustaches and black socks fucked dishwater blonde girls who never stopped smiling as though they were smelling strudel straight from the oven. My own dad had all those magazines locked away alongside something called The Anarchist’s Cookbook (19171), which taught you how to make bombs, grow marijauna, pick locks, and hack old payphones. Porn took trouble to acquire and keep, caused trouble when it was found, and was hard to find if you were underage. 

Then the internet arrived.  ASCII code could be converted into pictures. Porn was free, and for the first time, we found that freedom had nothing to do with cost. Porn was released, free to meet other porns and have pornlets. Porn had had it pretty rough before; it was once trapped in steaming, sticky theatres, forced into hardcore labor rooms where the doors were hung with seedy beads, kidnapped and held for ransom in the sun-baked California warehouses. 

Now it’s confusing. No one pays for porn, but yet the stuff is still being made. I can order it on my cable pay-per-view, but what would be the point of that? Porn is everywhere. It’s easy to find, to acquire, effortless to store in the limitless and Stygian depths of our computers. Yes, we all leave massive, day-glo, virtual computer porn trails like we were massive and horny slugs, and we would be fucked if a computer tech were to go over our hard drives. But what are the odds of a cyber CSI team confiscating our machines? There are billions of us!

Which leads me back to Shame, and what it might mean for us. One of our most potent drugs is free of both cost and risk; our kids are consuming it at twelve and younger. Porn is part and parcel of sex addiction.This movie could start a conversation.

I’m not anti-sex; I’m not going to be like Ted Bundy on the eve of his execution and conveniently blame everything on porn; I won’t suggest we start banning desires. But this movie could at least, much like the pro hockey discussion still in its infancy about concussion, start us talking about this massive and interconnected beehive of masturbation stations, and what it means for the brains of our future generations. 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Some Books on Puberty, Because I'm a Geek parent

A few days ago a package from Amazon came in the mail. There were some regular kids’  books, and then two not so regular: What’s Happening to Me? and Where did I Come From?, both by Peter Mayle. 
These two are classic texts in the puberty genre. They’re not too judgmental, and the facts are almost completely correct save for one notable exception - perhaps to reassure insecure pubertal boys, the book calmingly states that although penises may cover a wide range of sizes when flaccid, they are all generally the same size when erect. Any woman who’s been with more than one man, and any man who’s seen porn, knows this is not true. 

The night they arrived, my wife and I leafed through What’s Happening to Me? while our eight year-old leafed through Where did I come from? in his room. 

This, boys and girls, is a wet dream. Wet because he's in the
ocean, I suppose. 
I’m not complaining about these books. Not at all. I’m glad my kids are going to read them, and not get their sex-ed from the psychotic bed-wetter at school. There’s no religion in these books, no proselytizing. The explanation for masturbation is adorable - kids’ bodies are ready for reproduction at thirteen, but kids aren’t socially or emotionally ready for reproduction. Nature has invented a solution: Rub one out! It’s not bad, but sometimes you may feel embarrassed. To illustrate this point, there is a wonderful picture of a tiny, round-bodied little ginger-haired boy sitting in bed with his hands down his pants as a long and judgemental lighting bolt points angrily at him. The books covers feelings, curiosity, and even reassure us that having pubic hair that is not the same colour as the hair on our head is normal. I can’t really complain.

Except… this books makes sex look no different than your average kids’ book. It’s cute and acessible. The boys and girls are little caucasian cherubs that resemble Ewoks or cabbage-patch kids. It demystifies sex and while this is good on the surface, I wish I could tell my kids what I’ve gleaned. I wish I could tell them this:


Look. Sex is one of the three most primal things we do. The other two are being born, and dying. Being born is something you get out of the way quickly. But the other two are inextricably linked. They are tangled in a greasy Gordian knot that for most of our life-span we pretend does not exist. 

We try not to die, and in the time that we succeed in not dying, we’re trying to have sex. Evolution wired us so that we are fooled into thinking that we have sex for pleasure, but we do it to survive. It’s about passing on enough of your genes so that your death becomes moot. 

Got all this, I hope? This means that sex is complicated, and it’s powerful. We’re doing our best, through a combination of internet porn and female empowerment, to make sex seem like a recreational sport. It’s not. It’s both the most umimportant, pleasurable, and fun thing you’ll ever do, and at the same time it is a force that has enslaved populations and countries, toppled kingdoms, fomented mass murder, inspired car design, and was nearly the undoing of an otherwise brilliant and unbeatable American president. It’s spawned massive government-regulated sex industries and made countless innocent children disappear. If you look at someone under the age of thirty, there’s a good chance that he or she is thinking about it. It’s powerful. 

Is it something to afraid of, you ask? No. It’s a natural phenomenon, like wax and wane of the moon, or the vast sheets of ice that fall from icebergs in the Newfoundland spring. It’s not different than the leopard seal that hunts penguins, who are hunting food to feed their chicks. It’s life and creation, and I hope you have a chance to be involved in it. 

You don’t want to have kids? You don’t want to join the Circle of Life? That’s fine. I want you to do what makes you happy. You’ve been born, you’re going to have sex, and you will eventually (and I don’t want to think of this) die; you’re doing all three primal things anyway. But every day you will be interacting with people who are on their journeys from, towards, or through these three things. You have to be aware of that, and these earnest and funny little drawings aren’t going to be telling you any of this. 

Rather than have you read this, your mother and I are probably going to muddle through your sex education like all parents do, and you’ll recount the awful discomfort you felt when I try to lecture you on ‘taking the gentlemanly precautions’, or when your mother asks you if ‘you really like that girl or whether you’re just using her, because she seems really nice.’ 

We’ll make mistakes, because we’re trying to educate you on something ephemeral and elemental.

In fact, the more I go on, the more futile it seems. How about I change tack and just be practical?

Wear condoms, know where the clitoris and G-spot are, try not to cheat because you’ll eventually get caught, don’t be too smug to your friends if you find a Friend With Benefits, and above all be nice. Be respectful to strippers or the doorman will have legal reason to beat you up. Porn isn’t a bad thing but I learn to hide it, dammit. 
There. That wasn’t too bad, was it? 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Occupy Vancouver and the God of Greed

Occupy Vancouver disappeared today.
The city and the police came early in the morning when it was still dark. It had been raining hard, and I don’t think the protesters had much fight left in them. They moved over to Robson street to set up an encampment by the Law Courts. As I write this it is pouring rain, and a torrent of water is pouring off the corner of my roof where the eavestrough is broken. It’s a miserable night be be outside in Vancouver. But that is nothing; in Calgary and Ottawa it’s not wet, but bone-chilling cold. 
World-wide, the media has turned against the Occupy movement. They tell us the people have sickened of the protestors, but I think their instinct for a story has made then attempt to engender a conclusion onto what could have been history. 
Yes, the message was too amorphous, but the threat - the inequality lobbied in legality, the whole-sale theft of public funds by the very men who used to work for Goldman-Sachs - is amorphous. Mark Carney, the man who runs the Bank of Canada, used to work for Goldman-Sachs, and is now heading a technocrat cabal intent on ‘solving’ the Greek debt crisis. How does this Harvard-educated financial whiz plan to do it? The same way the 2008 crisis was ‘solved’ - billions in public money. That money will disappear. It will go away, and thousands of banking executives will receive bonuses, and send their high-performers on ‘seminars’ and team-building camps in the Caribbean. When the next crisis erupts, this will happen again. It’s a rescue operation for the rich. 
The amorphous message is stop. Stop the business as usual. We’ve been in league with a monster.
The derivatives, the high-finance machinations, are so complex that even the smartest financial minds in the banking industry can’t understand them. The market; the interconnected brokerages and exchanges, the fast-as-light system on everything runs, are nothing less than a massive body with a circulatory system, nerve endings, lungs, a stomach, and a vast appetite. Every trader has unwittingly become a cell, and every bank and firm has become a nexus in an individual system. We’ve tricked ourselves into thinking we’re farming our financial system like a crop, but it’s a monster to which we pay tribute. 
It doesn’t care about us. Through the science of incorporation, we’ve given it a brain that feels no empathy. It knows that if we kill it, its colossal corpse will rot and poison us all. So we feed it, and it gives us a meagre something in return. 
There’s this writer by the name of Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Anyone who reads horror knows about him. But for those of you who don’t: he was a visionary author of the early twentieth century. He led a rough life, died in poverty, and left a body of work that became the most influential material in horror. He wrote of Forbidden Knowledge, and Elder Gods. What if huge, ancient and unspeakable creatures were watching us? 
But we don’t need Lovecraft anymore. We’ve had our own elder God all along; it merely needed us to become so interconnected that we unknowingly made a vast and virtual body for it. Then the Elder God moved right in. 
An old God, and a convenient temple
Its name is Greed, and now it’s as real as Wikipedia or Google. It’s a construct, but it’s more real, and more reactive, than anything present in the Judeo-Christian mythos, or Islam. It may as well be real. Our God is Greed. It’s ancient; it’s lived as long as Humankind has competed for the comeliest mate, or the ripest berry patch, or the fertile valley with a river running along the bottom.
 But now we’ve given it a home, and its disciples, its adherents, are impossible to fight or prosecute. So far, the only thing we’ve thought to do is camp out near Greed’s temples. 
So the next time you walk by your fading and embattled local Occupy encampment, spare a thought for these folks. They’re not perfect, but neither have they blindly placed their faith in the disciples of Greed to fix everything. They’re looking for a new way - you can see it in their Elder tents, their cookhouses, their communal organizing. 
My kids and I walked by there on Sunday. It didn’t look violent or filthy. All we saw were people camping on wet ground. They weren’t harming anyone. They certainly weren’t orchestrating the transfer of billions, and they don’t deserve this anger. They’re not the bad guys. 

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Two Reviews - 'The Last Werewolf', and 'The Caretaker of Lorne Field'

Just two quickie reviews. I used to do long ones, but the short form seems to be more appealing, and more in line with the ‘wham-bam-thank-you-man’ tastes of blog readers. 

The Caretaker of Lorne Field, by Dave Zeltserman - This short book has been viewed as Horror’s second coming by some. The reviews on amazon and on the Horror Drive-In were so effusive that I thought I had another The Passage on my hands, which meant I might be brutally disappointed. Also, the cost of the Ebook was almost nineteen bucks. But lately I’ve seen some collectible crud on sale for way more than that, so I thought I’d take the plunge.
It’s a quick read; I finished it in a day and half with what little reading time I have. It’s the story of a man who is the hereditary caretaker of the eponymous Lorne Field. The field is home to strange creatures called the Aukowies - plant-like monsters that are a melange of the Triffids, Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, and the legendary Mandrake plant. If left alive, an Aukowie will mature in eight days, pull itself from the ground, and destroy all life on earth. You don’t see much of the Aukowies; the book hints that mature they are nine feet high, move at about two hundred miles an hour, and are armed with what appears spinning thorns as powerful as industrial wood-chippers. 
The caretaker, Jack Durkin, is a man who gave up a pro ball career, happiness, and success, because a contract signed three hundred years ago makes him obligated to follow in his father’s footsteps, and his sons to follow in his. He has to pull the ‘weeds’ by hand from the field, for twelve hours a day, until winter comes. He gets free use of an old, dank house and eight thousand bucks a year. 
Here’s where the conflict starts: it’s present day, and all the respectful townsfolk who used to hold the selfless caretaker in high esteem, who used to give him and his family free food, are almost all deceased. The age of superstition has passed. Jack’s sons hate him and are embarrassed by him; his wife (whom admittedly Jack has used as a breeding sow to bear his sons and future caretakers) hates him with an almost homicidal passion, and the younger townsfolk think the Caretaker job is a ancient scam and that Jack and his descendants may have been having them on. 
This is a short book, but it works. The Aukowies, though barely described, are a constant and lurking presence. Wisely, the author doesn’t give an explanation, or an origin, and so the book takes on a mythic aspect. As the book progresses, the questions of reality, mental illness, and faith arise, and soon even the main character begins to question himself as much or more than the other characters. 
Top marks for this book, as long as you’re not expecting anything epic. It’s short, but it does everything a classic story should.

The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan - This is a tough review. 
Glen Duncan is a great writer, and uses his English classicism, his education, and his vast, incisive vocabulary to craft his brilliant verbiage. He’s clearly a fan of Nabokov, and although he pokes fun at Martin Amis in this books (‘Amis’s mouldering novelties’), he owes much of his style and many of his characters to Amis’s classic book Money. He’s technically a better writer than any horror writer ever. But is he a better horror writer? 
In the back pages of my cheapo edition of Moby Dick, there is a collection of essays. One is by DH Lawrence, and it’s a treat to read one genius as he dissects another. He pokes fun at Melvilles plodding pendantry, his endless lectures on history and biology, but admits that beneath all of Melville’s fluff beats the heart of a true mystic. 
So… I hate to do this. Glen Duncan is what this genre needs: Most horror writers could never in their life craft a sentence like he can. He’s a classically trained dancer in a field where most are outside shuffling on a sheaf of cardboard for spare change. It’s a pleasure to read this book. His insights into werewolf transformation, the nature of immortality (and I think he borrowed from Amis’s short story ‘the Immortals’), the lurking, flickering spirit of lust and hunger as it dashes between both states, are fabulous. But there’s… no there there. 
I was waiting for that pulse, that black throbbing pustule that makes great horror. But Jacob Marlowe, the immortal and titular main character,  is terribly bored. He’s seen it all. Duncan has made the mistake of deconstructing the werwolf myth too much. Jake is rich, constantly horny, and dealing with a zealous anti-supernatural agency that has destroyed all the werewolves in the world ( their greatest triumph was the making of a bait website that advertises lycanthropine hook-ups called Werewolf-fuckfest.com) and are zeroing in on him. There’s lots of action and gore. But I was never frightened, creeped out, or otherwise disturbed. I was looking for horror, and instead I got a comedy of wits and manners with werewolves. 
But read it. I wasn’t frightened, but a lot of horror books aren’t frightening. So many horror books are horribly written, but this was wonderful. Yes, there is a slight feeling that the author is genre-slumming to make a quick buck( or just a buck period, since it’s tough to make a living as a writer), but nonetheless his talent should be welcomed. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Monsters (2010)

  This movie gave me hope. Monsters, a simple alien invasion story, gave me hope. 
  I've been worried about horror. It's not just the zombies, or the publishing houses that are built on zombie fiction, that worry me. It's the fiction, the stories. Horror, film or text, is now horror first and story second. Writers approach horror first with the scare, blood, rape, or monsters, before they even think of a story. But horror is nothing without real people, real surroundings, real language. Good horror is a good story first. Some of Stephen King's best-known works aren't horror; he's a great storyteller who happens to like scaring people. 
   Monsters is about two people, a man and woman, travelling through Mexico trying to get home to the US. You can almost taste and smell the tortillas a young Mexican mother makes for them; you notice the dirt and grit on the government signs warning of restricted areas. You can feel the tension between the two leads as they try and fail to always show themselves at their best.
  They just happen to be travelling through a land colonized by 300-foot tentacled aliens who are dead ringers for Lovecraft's Cthulhu. 
    But it works. The monsters are on CNN, and in the US and Mexico, life goes on. Judging by the signage on the roads leading to America, we can see there is another government agency created to deal with the threat, and that agency has its own logo, and each of its initiatives has its own logo as well. On the Mexican side of the border, there are religious shrines built in honour of the victims (think of pictures of children in their Confirmation clothes). There are protest signs against the collateral damage the anti-alien bombing causes. In the background of almost every shot there is a gutted building, destroyed either by bombs or aliens; the movie is never clear in that respect. 
    The movie makes wonderful educational point for writers and directors: any disaster that does not utterly destroy our civilization will instead give us signs, walls, protocols, curfews, a new vocabulary to explain what we see every day, and a new economy to deal with all those people who need things, or need to get somewhere fast.  But we will still drink, eat, care for our children and each other, and get on with life. Describe those details and you tell a story the audience wants to hear. Describe those people, and you won't need the monsters all that much. We'll see them through the eyes of those characters you worked so hard to flesh out. That's how horror works. 
   Oh, and if you want to add buckets of gore after you've successfully created your character and background, that's okay too. Just thought I'd add that. I'm not anti-gore, I'm anti-suckage. 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Horror Movie Review: Home Alone (1990)

 Home Alone is as edgy as extreme horror. 

    Friday night; there was still time before bed; so what to do? The kids are starting to punch each other and soon they’ll be grabbing blunt objects. I desperately check the movies we have in on the PVR. Lo and behold, there’s a Home Alone that my wife taped last year off of CBC. I get the kids into their pyjamas, make them brush their teeth, and down into the activity room we go. A classic of the early nineties. I’ve never seen it before, but I heard of it when it came out. I missed it; That classic face-palming shot by Macaulay Culkin was everywhere and I hate anything ubiquitous. But it’s a kids’ movie and I was sure they’d like it.
   Horror is, simply, the destruction of order. Cancer, war, murder, deformity, disability, helplessness, the loss of civilization, helplessness. If you can see horror as the destruction of order, of peace, then a lot of films  one might never consider to be horror become horror films, and a lot of horror films (Saw, anyone?) are just gimmicks. 

   The premise (for the three of you who haven’t seen the movie): The McCallisters, a large, extremely wealthy extended family, are on their way to Paris for Christmas. The evening before the plane leaves, the youngest brother (Culkin) annoys everyone so much that he is banished to the attic. In the morning, amidst all the confusion, the family leaves the boy in the house, and only realize their mistake once they’re over the ocean. 

   Back home, Kevin McCallister wakes up, alone, and convinces himself that he has magically wished his family into oblivion.

   I said horror is the destruction of order. It must be done on a great magnitude. Kevin, a downtrodden little underdog, immediately moves into his parents’ room, jumps on beds, eats junk-food all day, raids his older brother’s room for cash and skin-mags, watches violent movies before noon while eating cake and ice-cream, and makes a terrible mess of his upper-1% family home. A storm has taken out the phone lines. The concept of a wealthy family’s comfortable Christmas, the great privilege of the western world, is dashed as effectively as if zombies staggered out of the woods, or a meteorite thundered down and wiped out Washington DC.

  Then the burglars arrive. 

    Two thieves (Joe Pesci an Daniel Stern), collectively called The Wet Bandits (known for leaving the taps on and flooding the houses of the people they burgle. As a homeowner, that infuriated me), have arrived to rob the the houses of everyone who has left for the Holidays. Kevin’s home is the largest and most ostentatious on the street. Kevin has to defend himself and his home. 

 Beforehand, there is a brief and touching scene when Kevin sadly sits in a church pew and watches the choir rehearse for Midnight Mass. He meets his neighbour, an old man who is rumoured to have killed his family, and discovers that the rumours are false and that he is kind and wise. He leaves the church, that symbol of timeless order, and runs home to deal with The Wet Bandits. What follows is pure horror for the adults watching, and pure, anarchical delight for younger viewers.

    Kevin comes just short of killing the two burglars. He sends them crashing down iced stairs, makes them step on rusting nails, attacks them with blowtorches, shoots one burglar in the crotch with a pellet gun, bludgeons another with an iron. The invasion of a secure environment, the transfer of power into the hands of a violent little second-grader, the silent woods outside, the family marooned in Paris and trying unsuccessfully to contact their youngest - this is a horror film.  This is a breakdown of the ruling order. 

    When it is over, only Kevin and the burglars know what has happened. When he is reunited with his family, the grown-up little Kevin, that whirling dervish of destruction, forgives his mother for leaving him home alone. But it’s his choice to do so.

   For all of you who can find it, I would highly recommend Home Alone. It is a violent and unexpectedly  sophisticated film of rebellion. It has also become standard Christmas TV for stations who don’t bother to screen their programming choices. If your local station is blindly broadcasting it for the Christmas lull, record it and prepare for a wonderful ride.  

Friday, 4 November 2011


    I grew up reading Tintin and Asterix. It was quite a few years before I realized that both were originally French (and I had no excuse for thinking Asterix was created in North America; they were Gauls, for Cripe's sake).
    There are a number of animated Tintin's, and there is an brisk industry in making live-action big-budget Asterix films (with Gerard Depardieu as Obelix). So why not make Tintin into a grand film live-action film for the theatres?
  Instead, we have this strange mix of live people made into animated creatures, which is how The Polar Express was done. Tintin looks like a animated statue from Mme Tussaud's. I'm not sure why they're doing this, but I'll hazard a guess.
  Tintin is an immortal, timeless brand. He is a simply and brilliantly drawn character, and that doesn't work  with real people. Sure, you could get Shia Labaoef or Justin Bieber to portray Tintin in an instance of celebrity casting to get bums in seats. But could you imagine either of these guys with a cropped head and a little tuft of blonde hair sitting perfectly atop his head? Could you take seriously a real person with that hair, plus-fours (the Tintin pants), a blue sweater, deck shoes, and what is probably a dickey? Does anyone even know what plus-fours and a dickey are? Tintin dresses like this all the time.
    Captain Haddock wears an officer's cap and a blue sweater with an anchor stencilled on the front. Always. The Thompsons are two men (not identical twins) who look and dress alike, finish each other's sentences, and sleep in the same room. In some Tintin books, Snowy the Dog can talk. I don't think there is any way this can be done with real people. It wouldn't be taken seriously.
   I'm not sure why the Tintin books can portray amazing stories, real emotions, suspense, murder, Moon landings, treasure hunts, Lovecraftian Mayan conspiracies, and brilliant commentary on politics and power,  through these buffonish characters. But it works.
    Looking back at what I've written, I accept the decision to go the hi-tech animated way. This will go a long way towards suspending the viewers' belief. And if it doesn't, we'll always have the books. They'll never get old.
    The movies makes it to North America on December 21st. I'll probably be there with my kids. Here's the trailer.

Edit: From the trailer, this movie appears to mix together several Tintin plots into one convoluted mass. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I'll probably see it anyway. 

Monday, 31 October 2011

Trailer: We Need to Talk About Kevin

  Let's be honest. One of the best horror novels of the past several years was not some piece-of-crap zombie novel, nor was it anything to do with sparkly vampires. It was Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk About Kevin.

    Like Pet Sematary, this book is horror defined. There is no gore involved, just the hell of seeing your child's soul die in front of you as he grows up. 

  The debate over what is horror can take up a lot of time and space. Horror is something visceral, so there's no point in trying to define it to someone who might view it differently. So I'll come up with two related examples.

   The other night, I was bopping around the vast world that is Reddit. Reddit is nothing more than a gigantic high school with a student body of more than a million people. I ended up in a sub-reddit called /r/gore. 

   The title says is all: Gory photos and videos. Once this corner of the net and many like it were inundated by videos releases by Al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam: beheading videos in the desert. But those videos, which are awful, pale in comparison to what is now coming out of Mexico. 

  Mexican drug-cartels (And I'm afraid to even type their names; I suspect they just might show up at my door) like to capture members of rival gangs, and then slowly cut off their heads on camera. Sometimes they like to be efficient and use chainsaws. Sometimes they like to leave piles of dismembered bodies on the side of the road. 

  I was an idiot and watched a few of those videos, and clicked on a few photos. It's that awful Mount-Everest urge to vault the greatest heights, or see the most extreme things. Afterwards, I felt numb and ill, but I recovered. 

  I read up a little more about life in the cities south of the US border, such as Ciudad Juarez, which is the most afflicted by drug violence. This is what one resident said: "After work everyone rushes home. Because after dark, the vampires come out." 

    I was disturbed and grossed out by the videos, but that one statement by an innocent Mexican citizen horrified me and gave me nightmares. That is horror. 

   In We Need to Talk about Kevin, the vampires come out. A woman is condemned to hell on earth - because she didn't want a child in the first place? Because her son was born bad? Because she may have abused him? We never know, and the reader may as well vote as to whether the mother or Kevin himself is to blame for Kevin's behaviour. According to the author, it's about 50-50. 

    The movie is coming out soon. It's earned the author's seal of approval. It features John c. Reilly, who is wonderful, and most importantly, a delicious, six-foot package of acerbic and gingery goodness by the name of Tilda Swinton (who regretfully has gone brunette for this role). 

   For those of you who want true horror, and to be taken to a place where everything you ever wanted and valued turns sour and rotten as you live it, read this book. See this movie. 

8 Things I learned from my Graveyard

     I live near an enormous graveyard. Have you ever walked through and thoroughly examined a large graveyard? Mine has a Masonic section, mausoleums, a Jewish section, a Buddhist section, a stream and garden sprinkled with stones engraved with the names of dead babies, three separate veteran sections, and a brand new crematory wall. It does not have a pet section, which is too bad since I and so many other people walk their dogs there among the stones.
   Things I have learned since living by a graveyard ten blocks long.

1. If you want people to remember you, choose your gravestone wisely. Too many buy gravestones made of concrete. Crushed seashell is an ingredient in concrete, and the acid in rainwater will eat into your gravestone, reducing your engraved family name to a pale, near-invisible grouping of moss-eaten depressions. Soon your gravestone will be bleached and almost smooth. If you want your gravestone to moulder away as would a body, then fine. But otherwise, invest in either marble or granite. I’ve seen granite stones than I’ve thought were brand-new but upon reading the dates realized they were well over a century old. 

2. A very few graves are those of recently-dead children. Those graves are covered with festive balloons, little toy trucks, and colorful cards that proclaim the toughness and heroism of the child, who usually had a rough life in the intensive care unit being treated for something congenital. Often the gravestones are covered in stencilled cartoon Supermans, or Winnie the Pooh and Eyore. Don’t avoid these graves. You can see them a long way away. I visit one or two on a regular basis, sometimes with my own children. These kids faced death much more bravely than we ever will, and we shouldn’t cast our eyes away.

3. Don’t walk by the crematorium when the gas main is hissing. A good crematorium will use air scrubbers, but that sweet smell still makes its way to your nose.

4. Use graveyards. They are public green space, protected from scumbag developers, and if they were to be shunned by the public, gangs and squatters would move in. Murder victims would be left there, although I’m sure the murderers would be unaware of the irony. So walk your dog there, jog there, take the kids on walks through there. Think of your grandmother, and wonder whether she would want children playing in her place of eternal rest. Of course she would! I would too. Just be respectful.

5. If you’re using your graveyard for the purpose of teaching your child to ride his bike, do not do so on Mothers’ day. Mothers’ day is the busiest day of the year outside Veterans’ day/Memorial day. It will be very crowded.

6. I don’t know who this is, but if you’re reading this: Don’t leave food in the cemetery. Whole chickens, roasts, piles of cereal and rice, whole mountains of mashed potatoes, racks of ribs - seriously, I get that there is a creepy religious angle to all of this, but it’s still gross. Rats, seagulls, and coyote are drawn to the graveyard and they don’t go away. If you can’t help it, and still feel the need to put out perishable food in the graveyard, do it on All Souls’ Day like everyone else.

7. Learned to be open-minded. Everyone dies, everyone. Several years back, a young fellow was found in the backyard of a marijuana grow-house with a bullet in his head. His boyz left pictures of him flashing gang signs, crosses, framed photos of him and his scary friend lounging on the couch, and a small pile of joints right under his name on the crematory wall. If that is how his friends and family wish to remember him, I’ll try not to judge. At least they didn’t bring rotting chickens. 
Click to embiggen

Finally - 8. If your last name is Dick, do not let your wife erect a monstrously large phallic gravestone in your name. Perhaps the woman in question wanted to world to know the secret to their happy marriage, but I didn’t need to know.